A tweet yesterday by Waitemata Local Board member Graeme Gunthorp highlighted one of the (many) problems right now with Auckland Transport, their lack of understanding of the wider vision and designing narrowly scoped projects.
He went on to say
I am so angry.
Auckland Transport simply does not understand the transformation that Council, Governing Body, Local Board, Residents Group is trying to undertake in the city centre.
I understand budgets are tight. I understand that freight and deliveries need to happen.
But I do not understand why multiple 5 lane highways should destroy the highest density suburb in the country. There’s families, kids, vulnerable folk who need safety and amenity.
So unless the project team have a good roadmap for when and how the de-tuning is going to happen, I plan to take the nuclear option and bring in every senior political leader I can to oppose this ludicrous band-aid on cancer.
Here are the images from the tweet.
I’m going to take a guess that what AT are primarily looking to address here is responding to the safety issues on these streets.
Back in 2019 AT made the decision to lower speed limit on most streets in the city centre to 30km/h. Following lobbying from groups like the AA they also made the decision to only lower the limit on these three streets to 40km/h. The board were told the speed limit changes would cost AT about $5-10 million more (a 30-60% increase in implementation costs) as these roads would need “enhanced engineered safety features” to ensure the new speed limits were achieved.
But AT never did anything to actually deliver those safety features so it’s completely unsurprising that people haven’t slowed down, something highlighted in September’s monthly board report under the title of “Safe Speeds – Hobson, Nelson and Fanshawe Streets”
Speed limits on the majority of City Centre roads were reduced to 30km/h or less in June 2020. A 30km/h speed limit was selected as evidence suggests this is a survivable speed for people hit by vehicles.
Speed data suggests that on some city centre roads the new speed limits are not being adhered to on these corridors. Higher speeds on these roads, combined with the high presence of people outside of vehicles, increases the risk of deaths and serious injuries (DSI), and on that basis. AT plans to introduce engineering measures to improve safety.
It’s critical that AT make these safety improvements, however, like we’ve seen on other projects, due to limited budgets and scope AT seem to be ignoring the wider vision and opportunity for transformation.
In particular the City Centre Masterplan calls for Hobson and Nelson Streets to become “more liveable, green twin avenues” and to achieve that through the following outcomes
- Reduced vehicle traffic
Reduction in the number of vehicle lanes and turning movements at intersections, possibly followed by transition to two-way travel in some sections of either or both streets.
- Easier and safer walking
Wider footpaths, greater pedestrian wait room and priority at intersections and increased mid-block crossings to make walking easier and safer along and across the long and wide street blocks.
- More cycleways
Retention of separated cycle lanes on Nelson Street as a key part of the emerging network and opportunities for new cycleway linkages on Hobson Street unlocked by changes to traffic access and circulation.
- Strengthening street trees
Strengthening of the existing street trees as a positive feature of both streets and new opportunities to add surface greening that enhances liveability and the environment and create more distinctive, green city avenue street types.
As I see it, while the things that AT are focusing on are needed, not many of them address the outcomes sought by the CCMP. What’s more, the rest of those CCMP outcomes are being left to some other project to deal with at some unknown time in the future – which may end up undoing all the work this project is looking to deliver. Wherever possible we should be looking achieve what is actually in our plans otherwise it could be decades before anyone wants to bother looking at it again. Furthermore, many of the best ways of dealing with the things AT are looking to address would be achieved if they just delivered on the CCMP outcomes.
Perhaps the most galling part is that AT acknowledge there are these other issues with the street, including issues of personal safety and are choosing to ignore them. A safety project that isn’t delivering safe cycling infrastructure as part of it isn’t really a safety project.
Then there is the suggestion that AT can’t make too many drastic changes due to the “need to retain the arterial and over-dimension function of these roads”.
There’s nothing that says an arterial has to be 4-5 lanes of vehicle traffic – as seen on almost any other arterial in the region. In addition, when it comes to Hobson and Nelson Streets they’re not even part of an over-dimension route.
As for Fanshawe St, traffic from the motorways has fallen significantly since the over the last 15 or so years following the changes made to the central motorway junction in the early 2000’s. There’s more than enough room for a bit of road space reallocation while still retaining an ‘arterial and over-dimension’ function. How is Fanshawe also not a ‘poor link’ on the cycleway network?
I get we can’t make every minor project solve all issues but at the least AT should be looking to how a project like this can form the first stage of a wider piece that will deliver the vision of the City Centre Masterplan.